Britney Spears has found her voice, and this time, we’re listening
Finally, the world knows precisely how Britney Spears feels about the conservatorship that has controlled her for more than a decade. She, in no uncertain terms, is done: “I just want my life back. It’s been 13 years and it’s enough.”
Spears’ 24-minute testimony before a Los Angeles court, delivered by phone, has marked a huge turning point in the pop star’s story. Spears was unequivocal in a way we haven’t heard before – the conservatorship, she says, is “abusive”.
Britney Spears has had her say in court.Credit:Getty Images
The 39-year-old has lived under a legal arrangement that has treated her much like a child since 2008: steered primarily by her father, the conservatorship removes her right to make decisions about her career, her health, and her fortune of about US$60 million (AU$79 million). But things didn’t add up. Conservatorships are usually reserved for people who can’t look after themselves, yet Spears has continued to shine in her career, releasing four albums, hosting reality TV and having a four-year Las Vegas residency.
Still, while we’ve heard lawyers, family members and media commentators speak for her, we’ve never had any direct insight into Spears’ state of mind about her situation, aside from a few apparent Instagram clues picked up on by her fans in the #FreeBritney movement.
But a “traumatised” Spears has now given a clear sense, in her own words, of what has been taken from her, with her statement to the court painting a more harrowing picture than we could have imagined.
Britney Spears with her boyfriend Sam Asghari in 2019.Credit:Getty Images
“Now I’m telling you the truth, OK? I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day,” Spears says. “All I want is to own my money, for this to end, and my boyfriend to drive me in his f–king car. And I would honestly like to sue my family.”
It’s hard to fathom how one of the most successful pop artists of our time could get to this point. But this is also a woman who sears with rage, a woman who has finally found her voice, and who is determined to take back her power.
Spears says she can’t get married to her long-term boyfriend nor have another baby because her conservators won’t allow her to ask a doctor to remove her IUD. She claims she has had to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week, to be permitted to see her two children – now aged 15 and 14 – and was forced to go on tour in 2018 or else be sued by her own management. And she says she was put on lithium against her will, resulting in her being thrust into rehab after she felt “drunk”, “scared” and unable to have a conversation with her parents. “[My dad] was the one who approved all of it,” she says. “I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it.”
Spears has reportedly been contesting the conservatorship for years, and the public is only just getting a glimpse into that fight, partly because Spears says she’d worried she would be made fun of and called a liar. Understandable, given how she was treated in the past. Many of us are dealing with the guilt of having mocked her, fuelled by the tabloid press. I grew up adoring Spears’ music but can distinctly remember, as a high-schooler, sniggering at the photos of Spears’ shaved head, which became synonymous with her 2007 “breakdown” and was the subject of countless cruel memes. Only now do we know that Spears was desperately trying to claw back control after being hounded by paparazzi in the wake of her marriage breakdown and stint in rehab.
Britney Spears in 1999.Credit:Getty Images
Today, the fans who were once ridiculed for begging critics to “leave Britney alone” are the same fans we have to thank for launching the #FreeBritney movement and speaking up for Spears when she couldn’t.
Spears’ position is unique in that she is a world-famous pop star who has been infantilised by people she should be able to trust. But women losing control of their finances, their bodies, their careers, is sadly not a unique story. Spears’ former fears of speaking out echo that of survivors of abuse, and her fury and her push to break the shackles and seize control offer hope to anyone who has lost their voice.
“[I] would like to be able to share my story with the world, and what they did to me, instead of it being a hush-hush secret to benefit all of them,” Spears says.
Spears ended her testimony by saying “thank you so much” for letting her speak: “I wish I could stay with you on the phone forever, because when I get off the phone with you, all of a sudden all I hear all these nos — no, no, no … And I’m tired of feeling alone.”
What’s certain is that while the world may have abandoned Spears in 2007, it’s standing firmly with her in 2021. And we can only hope that just like she is helping some survivors feel less alone, she, too, can begin to feel the support of the masses behind her.
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